FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas (KFSM) — The holidays can be a stressful time, and for those battling substance abuse or mental illness, a pandemic holiday season could bring even more pressure.
According to the CDC, the most dangerous times of the year for drug-and alcohol-related deaths are December, January and March.
Over 81,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in the 12 months ending in May 2020, the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period, according to recent provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Friends, family and emergency responders can save lives with naloxone, an “opioid antagonist” medication that is used to rapidly reverse opioid overdoses, also known as Narcan.
A Fayetteville Police Department (FPD) officer was recently given the “Naloxone Life Saving Award” for saving a life earlier this year using naloxone.
On Aug. 15, 2020, Officer Page Summers with FPD responded to a call reporting an unconscious male at a local motel.
Upon arrival, individuals at the scene denied drug use, but Officer Summers recognized the male’s condition as a heroin overdose and acted quickly to save his life.
After two doses of naloxone, the man was awake and alert and opted to be transported to the hospital after EMS arrived.
Naloxone has been used by emergency medical services for decades, but law enforcement officers weren’t typically equipped with naloxone until recent years, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).
FPD officers began carrying naloxone in 2018, and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office saved a life using Naloxone for the first time ever in 2020.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) announced on May 12, 2020, it had received 116 new Narcan kits via the State Targeted Response grant after 116 sworn WCSO deputies completed the Arkansas Prescription Drug and Opioid Overdose training through the Arkansas Criminal Justice Institute (CJI).
On May 30, 2020, WCSO used naloxone for the first time and saved a life as a result.
“WCSO Deputies Bailey and McGowen responded to an address last night for an unresponsive person. It was believed to be a possible overdose. The caller was given CPR instructions over the phone due to the individual not breathing. Deputies Bailey and McGowen arrived on the scene, along with a first responder,” stated WCSO. “They established it was an overdose and administered Narcan. Approximately 30 seconds to a minute later, the individual became responsive. We’re thankful these deputies, who have been trained in the use of naloxone, recognized the critical need, acted quickly, administered it and were able to save this person’s life.”
In Dec. 2018, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) recommended that patients at high risk for an opioid overdose be prescribed or co-prescribed naloxone.
Adm. Brett P. Giroir, MD, assistant secretary for health and senior advisor for opioid policy, released guidance for healthcare providers and patients saying naloxone should be prescribed to all patients at risk for opioid complications, including overdose.
“Given the scope of the opioid crisis, it’s critically important that healthcare providers and patients discuss the risks of opioids and how naloxone should be used in the event of an overdose,” said Giroir. “We have begun to see some encouraging signs in our response to the opioid crisis, but we know that more work is required to fully reverse the decades-long epidemic. Co-prescribing naloxone when a patient is considered to be at high risk of an overdose is an essential element of our national effort to reduce overdose deaths and should be practiced widely.”
PreventEd, an agency that works to reduce or prevent the harms of alcohol and other drug use through education, intervention and advocacy, recommends you carry Narcan just in case to prevent a fatal overdose.
According to the CDC, not all people who need naloxone are getting it due to a wide variation in prescribing and dispensing across the US, despite consistent state laws and recommendations.
Reducing insurance co-pay for patients
Increasing provider training and education
Targeting distribution especially in rural areas
If each person with a high-dose opioid prescription were offered naloxone, nearly 9 million prescriptions for naloxone could have been dispensed in 2018, according to CDC.
Risk Factors for Overdose:
High-dose opioid prescriptions
Opioids took with benzodiazepines
History of substance use disorder
Misusing prescription opioids or using illicit drugs (either opioids or potentially contaminated with opioids
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